The hard questions to ask your data centre
By Kris Kumar*
Wednesday, 23 July, 2014
Providing state-of-the-art facilities is one thing, but data centre providers should do more to raise the bar of customer service.
An increasing number of companies in Australia are outsourcing their technology infrastructure. Outsourcing to data centre providers is growing significantly, with Frost & Sullivan’s Australian Data Centre Services Market 2013 report forecasting a market growth of over $1.5 billion by 2019.
To help their clients succeed, data centre providers must monitor the evolving needs of clients closely and continue to innovate. Providing state-of-the-art facilities and service are important, but more should be done to raise the bar.
Reduce waste. Many companies still consider technology infrastructure investment as a cost, rather than an asset from which they can profit; however, business models such as these are becoming obsolete. Developing a new business case for technology investments and improving the quality of the end-user experience is something that all companies must do.
One way to do this is to reduce waste. The National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) suite of energy rating tools provides a valuable benchmark of performance for Australian data centre providers to ensure they are committed to being energy efficient.
However, energy efficiency is only one aspect of this. When it comes to data centres, this fundamental change in outlook must span design, construction and operations. It should even address how we build awareness of - and say ‘no’ to - practices that promote waste: by cutting down on water or electricity use and becoming more efficient in tapping human resources and processes.
Hard questions need to be asked. Do 50 people run your data centre instead of five? Are they over-maintaining it? How can this be managed to decrease waste?
Improve transparency. Increased operational transparency should also be a focus. Clients should be aware of exactly what they are paying for, such as what each component of the service costs and how much usage there has been per billing cycle. While there is a measure of transparency today, different data centre providers may report usage and bill for services differently.
Establish industry-wide benchmarks. Benchmarks can go a long way towards setting the right expectations. While many data centre providers do maintain historical benchmarks, adopting industry-wide benchmarks will set clear guidelines about the relative quality of data centre solutions, allowing clients to make truly informed decisions.
Regulatory compliance. Change can only be effectively conceptualised and implemented in collaboration with other players in the data centre ecosystem, including governments. For example, in 2013, industry-specific regulatory changes began to emerge in the Asia Pacific for technology outsourcing that data centre providers must adhere to, covering the financial services, healthcare, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals and biotech sectors.
Data centre providers must offer creative business models that increase their clients’ return on investment. Only in this way can they remain relevant to their customers.
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